The tired tone of his voice revealed that Conrad Keely had seen this before.
“You know, when we were young, we saw real bands: Metallica, Iron Maiden.” Keely told the crowd, addressing a growing group of hecklers. “We didn’t go out to watch cartoons.”
At least he had stated the obvious: very few within the audience had actually come to listen to a real band, his band, .And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. No, they had come to see Dethklok, the animated stars of “Metalocalypse,” the popular late-night cartoon that consists largely of death metal melodies and horror movie violence. It’s a combination that’s won over the eyes and ears of the treasured 16-24 male demographic: Dethklok’s newly released “Dethalbum” debuted at #21 on the Billboard charts, the highest ever for a death metal band.
If last night’s concert in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom was any indication, Keely and his band have seen this cold welcome before. A constant presence of heckling in between the coordinating chants demanded that Dethklok take the stage. Instead of devil horns, audience members rocked the middle finger throughout Trail of Dead’s set.
Not that they didn’t deserve it. Trail of Dead was simply terrible, presenting music that sounded like rushed experimental jams. It was a disappointing showing, considering that this alternative metal group has produced decent recordings. That’s just the way it is with some bands. But the fact that Keely took all of the insults to heart was just embarrassing.
Trail of Dead was a sub-par opening act for Dethklok, who managed to create every environmental aspect of the death metal concert during their set. Live musicians took the place of animated characters, and while they sported hairlines that far receded those of their cartoon counterparts, the sound was not lost.
Brendon Smalls, who provides voices for the cartoon, brought vocals that perfectly imitate the deep demonic growl of the average death metal band. The music seems to cover all subgenres of metal, from the delightfully dark “Go Forth and Die” to the rapid pacing of the epic “Thunderhorse.”
The audience couldn’t be ignored either; without their presence, the concert would’ve lost quite a bit of the aggressive attitude it carries in the cartoon. Circle pits were rampant. Fans screamed and roared and bobbed their heads to the beat. The air was ripe with the odor of unwashed bodies, the telltale sign of death metal’s most common character: the slightly overweight, pale, 20-year-old virgin.
Had this been any other cartoon band, the show would’ve been an awkward 45 minutes of 40-somethings pretending they were playing in front of a thriving crowd.
Despite the powerful performance, one has to wonder if this group would’ve been as appreciated if it hadn’t been for “Metalocalypse.” If you ask the CSU audience, they’d still be able to put Trail of Dead to shame without any kind of corporate backing.
Assistant News Editor Erik Myers can be reached at email@example.com.